One month ago, singer Wycef Jean's "NGO" (for"Non-Governmental Organization) called "Yelle Haiti" raised just over $1 million to help victims of the 7.0 Haiti Earthquake. At the time, scores of non-profit organizations sprang up to announce some kind of effort to assist the quake-damaged country.
But of all of them, Yelle Haiti received the most attention because of alleged past spending patterns, leading to the awful and unfounded accusation that Wycef Jean was using the money for personal use. In this video made one month ago, Wycef Jean answered his critics:
Just after The Smoking Gun and The Washington Post blog posts were issued (and with no evidence of having attempted to personally contact Wycef Jean to give him a chance to respond to the accusations) and the rescue efforts ramped up, suddenly the American Red Cross became mentioned in commercial after commercial as the "go-to" nonprofit for donations.
Some newspapers, like The San Francisco Chronicle, included the American Red Cross in a list of recommended organizations to donate to in the effort to help Haiti. The message, and thus the common assumption or "conventional wisdom", was that the American Red Cross was the "safe" organization to donate to.
According to CNN Money, The American Red Cross had to ask for a $100 million cash infusion after its emergency fund was depleted. Today, reports are that the American Red Cross spent or committed nearly $80 million to "meet the most urgent needs of earthquake survivors."
But wait. Where did the cost of $80 million come from? Or is it that the American Red Cross received that much in donations and while all of it is committed, only part of it is spent? According to the American Red Cross' own one month report, it has raised $255 million for the Haitian Relief effort.
That's as much money as was raised to finance the upgrade construction of the Miami Dolphins' stadium for Super Bowl XLIV.
But here's where the reports gets really confusing and disturbing. While $255 million was raised, only $80 million was spent or committed, leaving $175 million in donations that's neither spent nor committed to Haiti.
Where's the $175 million the American Red Cross collected? Where's The Washington Post and The Smoking Gun to look at this?
The complete American Red Cross Haiti one month report does not help because it fails to even mention the $175 million collected but not spent or committed to Haiti.
The logical mind would think that if the American Red Cross gained $255 million in money that donors believed was going to the Haiti effort, then all of the $255 million should be committed to Haiti, not some of it.
This is a major outrage. But more outrageous is the media's blind eye to the American Red Cross' activities. One would think a reporter would not be so lazy that they could avoid subtracting $80 million from $255 million, get $175 million, read the Red Cross' online documents, and start asking about the unallocated $175 million?
But that's what's happened in the case of the only mainstream media organization to look at donation spending progress to date, The Miami Herald. The report in the business section mentions the $255 million and the $80 million in one sentence - this one:
For Haiti, the Red Cross has raised more than $250 million and has plans for some $80 million of that so far, said Red Cross spokesman Jonathan Aiken.
But disturbingly, The Miami Herald fails to ask the "What happened to the $175 million in donations" question.
Everyone deserves an answer, especially Wycef Jean and those who've ran Yelle Haiti, and who continue to be dogged by a PR attack that seems to have benefitted organizations like the American Red Cross and allowed them to submit sloppy reports of their own.
Indeed, The Miami Herald picked up the "something's wrong with Yelle Haiti" theme and repeated it in the same story where they give the American Red Cross a blind pass. That is awful and must be explained ASAP.